But I don’t like them. You ever hear that one? Do you have picky eaters in your house?
We sure did! It was like World War II to try and get my kids to eat one bite of a vegetable. When I say one bite, I mean ONE bite! We would have chicken, mac-n-cheese (or something from a box) and steamed broccoli or asparagus (at the time, those were the only two veggies I knew how to cook). Most of their food was basically white processed food, dairy, chicken and the occasional apple (and, of course, one bite of broccoli).
Looking back, we were basically over-fed and under-nourished. Today, my kids probably have more fresh vegetables for breakfast than most people have all day, and they still have 2 more meals left to go.
How did we do this? (Sometimes I wonder myself!)
First of all, we need to understand that ‘finicky eating’ IS a problem. It is not something we should casually reference and just ‘wish’ we could change.
Eating like we used to in our household is a problem to the health of the human body. It was evident in our body composition and in the health issues we were experiencing at the time in our family (overweight, high blood pressure, lupus, hyper activity, attitudinal issues) and I am sure we were on a path to discover more.
In addition, we caught all of the colds, sore throats and flu’s that were going around. Today, we do not get the flu shot and we just do not get sick anymore. Not to mention, all of those health issues I just mentioned above…. yeah, they are gone, too!
Legally, as a specialist in fitness nutrition, I cannot claim you can cure disease with food, but I can share my experiences with food in my own life. What I CAN say is, eating right sure won’t hurt! And eating wrong sure will!
Our bodies need a certain amount of vitamins and minerals from our foods (that our bodies do not produce). We need these things every day. If we do not get them, our body does not just say, oh well, we will just try again tomorrow! It either goes without, which weakens that part of the body or it steals what it needed from other parts of your body, which then leaves that part of your body weakened in some way – maybe even making us more susceptible to illness and disease. (This is one reason I am not a fan of calorie-restricted diets.)
Unfortunately, to be really healthy, there is very little wiggle room with our food. We have a limited amount of calories to work with each day and we have a lot of things we need to get from those calories.
The majority of what we eat needs to be what our body needs. Unfortunately, the majority of the food in the “Standard American Diet” is exactly what our body does not need and lacks what we do need — which is SAD (also the acronym for the Standard American Diet). I would venture to say the average American probably has it reversed. They probably eat a very small amount of nutrient-dense food, in comparison to food with high levels of nutrients.
We all love our kids, and as a parent I think you always want to give your kids more than you had growing up. When we think about this, we generally think about things and lifestyle. Having better food is not something we generally think about. Most of us have never wanted for food. Growing up in America, food is plentiful. And, food is food, right? Well, maybe not.
The food landscape has changed a lot in the last 50 years and the quality of food (as proper fuel for our bodies) has gone way down. If you look around at our nation and all the health problems we have, this is not questionable. What we are doing is not working and is making us and our kids sick. If we do not change what we are feeding our families, they WILL have a poorer lives. Not poorer in the sense of things (they will have a ton of things) but in terms of health. You may not be able to see it now, but what we are feeding our kids today will affect their health in the future. You know the old saying, “at least you have your health.” Well, if we don’t make a change, our kids won’t even have that!
Okay, so we have a problem, we need to eat better, but we have another problem, too. We don’t like healthy foods. We like the tasty sweet treats, and all the things that are marketed to us and sold to us in or grocery stores and fast food restaurants. This is where the rub comes in. When you look at the facts, the food we are eating is bad for us and it is making us sick and it will cause us health problems down the road….so does it really matter whether we like it or not?
The reason your ‘picky eater’ does not like healthy foods is that they are addicted to the unhealthy things. Sugar, for instance, (which is in most of our food) can be considered addictive in the brain just as cocaine is. Just because your picky eater is addicted to a certain type of food, does not mean their body does not need all the vitamins and minerals from the things they are not eating. Each day you deprive your picky eater from the things they need, the closer they get to a health problem (it may be big or it may just be a runny nose).
It is important to realize, as a parent, this is not really your fault. We have been slowly led into this mess by the food makers. There are a few things you need to know about the large food companies.
- First of all, they are in business to make a profit for the shareholders. Their mission statement is NOT to make the American people the healthiest people on the earth.
- Their food is designed for profit and it is making us sick.
- They are not doing anything illegal, so they have no reason to stop marketing and selling us and our kids food that makes us sick.
- Finally, you need to know that, they are blaming you for being overweight, unhealthy, or a picky eater!
I have watched a couple different CEOs of large food companies (on CNBC) state on camera that their products are not harmful (in moderation). Now, they are probably right. If I ate one serving of chips or drank one soda every once in a blue moon my body could handle that. But when the majority of the food that is available to us is stuff that should only be eaten ‘in moderation’ (so we don’t get sick), well, that does us no good.
Our kids are hit with millions of dollars of marketing for things that should only be eaten every once in a while. But, what is happening is, we are eating it nearly every day. This is the problem.
So what does this mean? It means parents are now the bad guys. The parent is setup to look like the grinch that stole Christmas. Our food system has slowly gotten us addicted to food that will make us sick and then they blame us for not being responsible enough to eat right. Isn’t this fun?
So now what? How do we get out of the cycle? Well, the first step is to realize that there is a problem and you are NOT going to get help from food companies or our government. You are going to have to make the change for you and your family and not be part of the game. Okay, I know what your saying, Gee-whiz TK, thanks a lot! (Yeah, sorry about that, but don’t shoot the messenger. I am just laying out the information for you.)
The good news is that there is hope. If my family can change, anyone can! How did we do it? That is a great question. I wish I could just give you a quick trick and it would solve all of your problems. But, there were a lot of things we did to make the change and it took all of them to get there.
Here are some of my thoughts looking back:
Small changes – We did not bring down the hammer one day and make it happen. It happened over time. We made slow changes to what we ate and had in our refrigerator and cupboards.
Lead by example – Ouch, yep, if you want your kids to eat healthy, you have to eat healthy first. They will notice the change in you and they will want that for themselves. This was the biggest selling point for our kids. They could not deny we looked better, we felt better and they wanted to look and feel as good as we did.
Involve your kids – Take them to the health food store and let the pick out some healthy options. Options that are not packed full of processed foods, but rather made out of real whole ingredients. Let them pick what they want for dinner (but from a list of healthy options). Let them help you cook. The more they are involved, the more ownership, the more likely they will embrace the food.
Cook more whole food meals at home – Cooking more whole foods at home and allowing your kids to be involved is key. Also, get out of the box! Once you stop seeing vegetables as a side dish and instead see vegetables as a central part of your diet, you’ll discover new recipes that totally redefine vegetables. Another thing that helps is picking up more organic, locally grown vegetables. They taste totally different from what we ‘force feed’ our kids from the big chain grocery store. (If you need some new recipes, check out The Kitchen Skinny).
Realize your kids won’t starve – I would venture to say the average American kid is addicted to sugar. Our daughter was. Even the ‘food’ she ate was sugar. (She’d come home from school and eat some macaroni and cheese or a baked potato. In terms of the way your body processes those two foods, she may as well have been coming home and eating a bag of Skittles.) But, she was so skinny and grumpy that we were just happy to have her eat something. We didn’t want to suffer the consequences and we didn’t want her to starve.
What we didn’t realize is that the reason she was skinny and grumpy was because she wasn’t getting the right nutrition and she was addicted to having sugar in her system. It didn’t take long at all to wean her off the addiction, but it did take our help and guidance.
As kids, they do not understand this concept of addiction. All they know is their body is begging them for sugar and all the foods that turn into sugar in their system, which will give them that fix (if you will). Easing them off the processed food and sugary treats and having more whole food options available to them will do the trick faster than you think.
Bottom line is, your kids won’t starve to death, their bodies won’t let them.
Trying to get healthy food in our kids is probably one of the biggest challenges facing parents these days. It is sad that it has come to this, but it is what it is. The good news is it can be done. We did it and if we can do it you can do it.
I know this article was long and only scratched the surface. I’ll be addressing this topic in various ways in coming months. Most of you know exactly what needs to be done, but like us, you grab the macaroni or chicken nuggets because you feel like your kid just has to eat ‘something’. Or you think, “They will survive. After all, I ate crap as a kid and look at me.”
Do you really want your kids to be like you? Are you the picture of vibrant health? I wasn’t.
I am thrilled that my kids eat the way they do now. I can only imagine how good they will feel when they are my age. I didn’t start truly eating nutrients until I was in my 40s. If I had started in my teens….I can only imagine how different my life would be.
We also have to be careful comparing our kids’ diets to our own childhood. Food has changed. It’s our duty as parents to help our kids understand the importance of protecting their bodies in today’s world where the odds are against them. The best way we can do that is to talk about it as a family, make nutrition an ongoing discussion and lead by example.
Your kids will do the right thing, but you have to prove to them that it’s right and to do that requires both words and action. It won’t happen overnight and it should not become a family war. It should be something you believe in – the same way you believe and teach safety tips like crossing the street and being aware of strangers.
When they see your own commitment, in time, they will be inspired to take your lead. I promise.